DOHA // A decade before Qatar must complete the high-tech, carbon-neutral stadiums that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it will confront a more basic need: demand for drinkable water.
With a population of 1.6 million, at least 99 per cent of drinking water in Qatar comes from the expensive process of desalination. Qatari nationals do not pay water bills, while the expatriate population enjoys a sizeable subsidy.
ConocoPhillips and General Electric, which makes turbines used to power energy production across the Middle East, have come together in a bid to recycle water that is a by-product of oil and gas production.
A team of scientists at a centre the two companies established this year in Qatar Science & Technology Park is researching the removal of impurities and salts so the water can be used to irrigate farms - which consume 60 per cent of the country's drinkable water - or be injected back into oilfields to extend production.
By-product water from Qatari fields contain particularly high levels of salt, which can harm agriculture or prevent oil from leaving fields when the water is used in enhanced oil recovery.
Finding new ways to recycle that water is becoming more critical as oilfields in the Gulf states age and put out an increasing amount of water for every barrel of oil. One method pushes water through a membrane that does not allow salt or bacteria to pass. Another vacuums up water like a straw, separating it from solids and bacteria.
The recycled water could also be used for industrial cooling or landscaping, freeing up a resource that is not yet adequately valued in Qatar, said Samer Adham, the centre's managing director.